Louisville is arguably the hottest team in the land coming into the Big Dance. Not only did they win the regular season crown in the nation’s toughest conference (Big East), but they managed to also win their conference tournament. Their path to the Final Four is also the easiest. The 2nd (Michigan State), 3rd (Kansas), and 4th (Wake Forest) all faltered in their conference tournaments and haven’t been playing the best ball down the stretch. Inaddition to an easy schedule, Louisville plays stingy D and won’t beat themselves, they have coach Rick Pitino on their backs all tournament.
The only place, in my mind, that can produce a Final Four team that isn’t a number one seed. Memphis plays some of the best defense in the nation (56.9 points a game), although it could be argued that they haven’t been challenged much this season. Memphis is more experienced then its Final Four run from a year before. If they play UConn in the Elite Eight, big men Robert Dozier (F, senior) and Shawn Taggart (F, junior) can compete with UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet. But, I don’t think that will be an issue because UConn will lose before the Elite 8. If Memphis’ defense isn’t a hoax, and they do shutdown teams, they will make it to the Final Four. However, all of their games will be close and relatively low scoring.
In the history of the University of Pittsburgh, the Panthers have never made it past the Elite Eight. This is their year! They have a three headed monster in Sam Young (F, 18.7 ppg, 6.1 reb), DeJuan Blair (F, 15.6 ppg, 12.2 reb), and Levance Fields (G, 10.7 ppg, 7.6 ast) They have been tested all season in the Big East, having beat UConn TWICE. They also have a cake walk to the Final Four until they get to the Elite Eight where they will play either Duke or Villanova (who beat Pitt earlier this year.) I think Pitt is just too physical, too talented, and too athletic to be beaten by Duke and it is way to difficult to beat a team like Pitt twice in a season so Villanova wont get it done.
South: North Carolina
The South bracket could be the most talented bracket, with UNC, Oklahoma, and ‘Cuse as the top three seeds. The also have some dangerous lower seeds in no. 12 Western Kentucky and no. 9 Butler. North Carolina may be the best coached team in the land with Roy Williams and have last year’s POY in Tyler Hansbrough. UNC needs to get G Ty Lawson back and healthy, but they won’t really need him until the Elite Eight. I don’t think Syracuse has enough gas left in their tank to make it to the Final Four and Oklahoma isn’t balanced enough to beat UNC. I would love to see a Hansbrough-Blake Griffin match-up, but Syracuse will be playing UNC in the Elite Eight. One thing that all teams should look out for: Hansbrough has never won a National Title, and when he focuses, no one can beat him.